Researchers at the University of Missouri are using video game technology to prevent falls among hospital patients.
In particular, they have looked at video-game motion-capture technology, which has been used for systems from Microsoft and Nintendo, as a way to monitor falls. The technology they've developed is embedded in a thin black box device. On one side, black glass covers sensors that pick up the movements of the patients in a hospital room. One sensor, a depth camera, measures the distances to objects in its view. A cord connects the black box to a small computer.
The system sends a grid pattern of infrared light into a room, and then examining how objects and persons in the room distort the pattern. The machine analyzes these distortions to create a 3-D map, showing a patient, their bed and tray table, and everything else in the room. If it detects a person on the floor, it reviews the preceding events as the person moved to the floor.
For the study, the researchers installed a motion-capture device in each of six patient rooms at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., part of the MU Health System. During the eight months of the study, they did not record any patient falls. However, stunt actors simulated 50 patient falls and provided more data for algorithm. They did see a reduction of falls in the six patient rooms during the study.
The researchers say that data captured on patient falls can help health professionals learn about risk factors for falls, which could help create more effective ways of preventing them. Between 700,000 and 1 million people each year fall in U.S. hospitals, the researchers say, citing an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Hospitals report.
"Since 2008, we've investigated ways to detect and prevent falls by older adults living in independent senior apartments," stated Marilyn Rantz, Ph.D., R.N., a leader of the MU research team and a professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the MU School of Medicine. "Because falls are a concern in hospitals, we thought much of what we learned regarding older people could apply to protecting hospital patients. Technology that quickly detects falls and alerts health professionals can improve patient care and help in the diagnosis of injuries."
The study, "Automated Fall Detection with Quality Improvement 'Rewind' to Reduce Falls in Hospital Rooms," recently appeared in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.